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I have been runnning for just over six years, and from April through November I participate in a lot of road races. Nineteen to date, mostly 5Ks and 5Milers, with a couple of longer runs as my legs during a Ragnar Relay a few years back. I am self-taught, and definitely NOT a "natural" runner. I came to running late in life and I am not fast; my endurance is good, however. I don't use a body monitor or any other devices. My 5Ks so far this year have all been right at a 9:30 pace and I think my independent runs are about the same. I run outdoors (no treadmill), weather permitting (I'm in the Cape Cod area) usually at least 5 days a week during the spring/summer/fall. I strength train once or twice a week (more in the winter) and I do yoga on my "rest" day.
Recently I became involved with an organization called MyTeam Triumph which is an athletic ride-along team where participants in wheelchairs get to experience different athletic events. Last weekend, I completed my first event with them: a 5-Mile road race with a wheelchair partner, and I had an amazing time. However, it was MUCH more difficult than I anticipated. I couldn't believe how much momentum I lost by not being able to swing my arms (also did not enjoy running without earbuds/music, but that's more psychological than anything). The wheelchair itself (3-wheeled racing type, like a jogging stroller) was much heavier than I expected, and the front wheel does not pivot. The course was slightly hilly but more like a low grade incline for most of the miles. We did stop at two water stations on the course (my partner was elderly, it was nearly 80 degrees and I wanted to make sure we were hydrated) but my time was 56:25 -- for comparison, I ran a 5Miler last November in 48:16.
My next event with them is in 11 weeks and it will be my first 10K (my runs at home are between 2 and 3 miles; occasionally I will do a 4-5 mile run with a friend, and my longest runs ever were 8 and 9 miles, respectively, with that friend). I am familiar with the course (there is a 5K I run every year which includes part of it) and it is VERY hilly, with one gigantic incline about 3/4 mile from the start.
I am starting to panic about how to train most effectively for what is A) my longest run in a very long time, B) my longest race to date, C) a course that is challenging on its own, D) running without the use of my arms and the added concerns of maneuvering and pushing a wheelchair for 6.2 miles.
I will be 45 years old at that point, and I'm female. Anyone done a similar event with a wheelchair participant? Tips for training for hills? Tips for compensating for the lack of arm involvement? ANYTHING? Thanks in advance for any insight!
First, kudos to you for volunteering to give someone who can't run the experience of an event. That is awesome.
With regards to preping, since you are not able to use your arms (and yes, it is amazing how much swinging your arms actually helps you run), all of your strength is going to have to come from your legs. Aside from just getting your miles in to build up the endurance to run a 10K, you will benefit tremendously by doing hill repeats. You don't have to do it every day - once a week is enough. Find a hill that is at least a half mile long and has maybe a 4% incline (think of it as a 4 foot height change over 100 feet of distance) - do a mile or so to warm up first and then hit the hill as hard as you can, at the top turn around and recover while jogging back to the bottom of the hill, then hit it hard again. You can decide how many repeats is enough for you, maybe adding one or two every week. Be sure to take a slow jog afterwards to cool down and work on getting the lactic acid out of your legs.
If you can't find a suitable hill, I have found that parking structures do very nicely... even tougher actually!
Obviously, if you have a chance to run with the chair (and someone in it), that will also help you train.
Best of luck - you are doing a good thing. Let us know how it works out!
I run a lot with a jogging stroller, and I tend to use one arm to push and swing the other arm and then switch. I don't know if that's possible with a wheelchair since they often have two handles rather than a single bar where you could do that - if it's an option, I recommend seeing if you can push with one arm and then switch. The weight might be too much, though! I tend to use both hands on steep hills. I run with a double jogger and two preschoolers that weighs about 70 pounds total.
Training hills will really help you - and being aware that you're going to have to run based on effort and not pace, because you're at a HUGE disadvantage for hills. When I've raced with the double jogger, I get passed by runners on each uphill because I'm pushing 70 pounds up an incline, then I pass people on downhill and straights. Walking up a hill is TOTALLY legit if you're pushing weight!
I try to run a lot of hills to prepare, but I have the advantage of being able to train with the double jogger and kids that I'm going to race with.
Since you don't have that, I recommend doing the best you can with hill repeats for your legs, and working on upper body and core strenght, too. Neglecting strength training would be a mistake - it takes good core muscles and arm muscles to push that kind of weight while you're running and maintain decent form. I really recommend working on overall strength training a few days a week while you train.
Beyond that, my best advice is to not worry at all about time on the day of the race, and go slowly to compensate for the weight you're pushing!
Build up your distance gradually in advance of the race so that it doesn't feel like the longest distance you've run, but rather a manageable distance in your mind.
Good luck - start slow on race day and then slow down!
I write a running blog geared towards other new runners at http://www.iamrunningthis.com!
Couch to 5K graduate, September 2012
First 10K, June 2nd, 2013
First Half Marathon, September 2013